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This one’s for my grandmother, says Asian powerlifting champion Matthew Yap

SINGAPORE — His hands and calves were cramping as he prepared to make his final lift of 237.5kg at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships on Tuesday (Dec 5), but Singapore powerlifter Matthew Yap remembered his promise to his late grandmother, who died from pneumonia at the age of 70 two months ago.

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SINGAPORE — His hands and calves were cramping as he prepared to make his final lift of 237.5kg at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships on Tuesday (Dec 5), but Singapore powerlifter Matthew Yap remembered his promise to his late grandmother, who died from pneumonia at the age of 70 two months ago.

Ahead of the championships in Alappuzha, India, the 18-year-old told his dying grandmother that he would make her proud by becoming the Asian champion. There was, however, one obstacle standing in his way: Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Chebanov who had pipped Matthew to the world men’s Under-66kg sub-junior division (14 to 18-year-old) title at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Belarus in June.

Yap knew that he would have to summon all his strength in order to beat the Kazakh for the Asian crown (sub-junior division) this time around, and as he made his final lift, he took a long breath and mouthed to himself: “This is for you Ah Ma.”

“He (Chebanov) thrashed me back in June by a massive 32.5kg....However, knowing that I had to keep my promise to my grandmother made me even more focus and determined to win,” Yap told TODAY.

Yap’s deadlift of 237.5kg on Tuesday was not only enough to defeat the world champion and claim the Asian title, but the strongman also set a new overall world record of 588kg - 237.5kg deadlift, 215.5kg squat, 135kg benchpress - for his division. It was the second world mark at the competition for Yap, who also surpassed his previous squat record of 208kg set in Belarus.

Yap added: “To break three world records at one competition is amazing. I broke my own squat world record twice, and the total record...It is definitely a very humbling experience for my elder brother (Marcus) and I.”

Yap is coached by his elder brother Marcus, 23, who also became the under-59kg Junior Asian Champion in India. Their youngest brother Matthias, 17, is also competing at the event in the Men’s Under-74kg sub-junior category.

Matthew told TODAY that it has been a dream for the three brothers to travel and compete together in an international competition.

“Being in this sport together has definitely strengthened our bond but flying (and competing) together takes things to a whole new level,” he said.

In June this year, the brothers attracted the attention of Singaporeans after they had to resort to crowdfunding in order to pay for plane tickets back home from the Belarus world championships. This after an immigration mix-up at the airport caused them to miss their flight. The financial plight of the Yap brothers, who come from a low-income single-parent family, also came to light as they revealed that that they had been working part-time and forking out their own money to compete overseas. The athletes are not funded as powerlifting does not have a recognised national sports association in Singapore.

Following media reports on their financial struggles, Matthew was given a grant by the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation to pursue his powerlifting passion. The grant offers a maximum of S$3,000 to cover training-related expenses such as coaching fees or equipment purchases, as well as nutritional costs, and can be renewed annually.

An anonymous sponsor also stepped in to pay for his flights to international competitions.

With two world records and an Asian title under his belt, Matthew’s next goal is to achieve success in a higher weight and age class. He also dreams of becoming a full-time powerlifter so that he can repay his mother for all her support.

He added: “Since there is no prize money, every competition is making us thousands of dollars poorer... (but) my mother is fully supportive of us being in the sport. She does anything she can to help. Late night massages, and things like that.

“I did get a private sponsor for my flights but everything else was out of my own pocket, not my family’s. I do not want my hobby to be their burden.”

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